| 2 February 2023, Thursday |

Afghanistan ‘at the brink of economic collapse’, Pakistan’s FM warns

Afghanistan is “on the verge of economic collapse,” and the international community must resume funding and humanitarian assistance immediately, Pakistan’s foreign minister warned Thursday during a meeting in Islamabad with US, Chinese, Russian, and Taliban diplomats.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi spoke at the start of the “troika plus” meeting, which also included Thomas West, the new US special envoy to Afghanistan. The delegates are also expected to meet with Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi later Thursday.

“Today, Afghanistan is on the verge of an economic collapse,” Qureshi said in his opening remarks, adding that any further decline would “severely limit” the new Taliban government’s ability to govern the country.

“As a result, it is critical for the international community to bolster the provision of humanitarian assistance on an urgent basis,” he said.

He stated that this included allowing Afghanistan to access funds that had been frozen by Western donors since the Taliban took control of the country in August.

The resumption of funding “will complement our efforts to regenerate economic activities and move the Afghan economy toward stability and sustainability,” Qureshi said.

In later comments to state media, he argued that doing so would benefit Western countries as well.

“If you believe you are far away, Europe is safe, and those areas you believe will not be affected by terrorism, remember history,” he said. “We’ve learned from history, and we don’t want to make the same mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

The UN has repeatedly warned that Afghanistan is on the verge of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than half of the country suffering from “acute” food shortages and winter forcing millions to choose between migration and starvation.

The troika plus meeting is envoy West’s first trip to the region since succeeding Zalmay Khalilzad, the long-serving diplomat who oversaw the negotiations that led to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this year.

The State Department announced earlier this week that West will also visit Russia and India.

“Together with our partners, he will continue to make clear the expectations that we have of the Taliban and any future Afghan government,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said this week at a briefing.

West, who was in Brussels earlier this week to brief NATO on US engagements with the Taliban, told reporters there that the Islamists have “very clearly” expressed a desire for aid to be resumed, as well as for international relations to be normalized and sanctions to be lifted.

He urged allies to work together on these issues, noting that Washington “can deliver none of these things on our own.”

  • AFP